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Belated Iowa Blogging

Indeed, it’s almost funny to listen to some conservatives on the topic of Huckabee. Sitting in with Greta and Shep on their caucus night coverage, no one was more negative about the former Arkansas governor than Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham. Tom Tancredo was a close third. Republicans are distancing themselves from their Iowa winner, Huckabee, and their very likely New Hampshire winner, John McCain, more than even the most loyal Hillary-ites are doing with their other choices, Obama and Edwards. ~Susan Estrich

It is funny, since most of these people were the ones who rallied about the inevitability of Bush and, when confronted with the alternnative of McCain, embraced Bush and pretended that he was one of them.  Now that they have a chance to back another Bush, they are balking and find the idea so obnoxious that it drives them into fits.  I never supported Bush and saw through him from the beginning, so it’s hardly surprising that I find Huckabee equally undesirable, but what excuse do two-time Bush voters have?  Oh, wait, let me guess–now they care about the size of government!

I’ve got Ioway in my hair!
I’ve got Ioway in my ears and eyes and nose!
Oh, I know all I owe I owe Ioway,
I owe Ioway all I owe and I know why. ~Mike Huckabee Marty, State Fair

In defense of Iowa, I would note that the record of the Iowa caucuses in selecting a Democratic nominee who goes on to become President is hard to judge.  It’s true that Iowa winners who have become the Democratic nominee (which would include every Democratic nominee since Carter) have won the Presidency only once, but then the period when there have been Iowa caucuses has been almost completely coterminous with the Reagan-Bush era.  During this era, every Democratic nominee except Clinton lost, and he’s the only nominee since 1976 who didn’t participate in the caucuses, which rigs the entire analysis against the Iowans pretty thoroughly.  (Given the overall record of Democratic nominees over the last thirty years, one might as well say that Democratic winners of the California primary are doomed to failure.)  It may be telling that the two occasions when an Iowa winner did become President have come at opposite ends of the era, as Carter unwittingly paved the way for its inauguration and Bush cluelessly presided over its end.  A Huckabee victory would provide a fitting epitaph for the era and anything good that it might have represented.  I think this must be why Huckabee gives so many establishment conservatives hives–he is the living reminder and embodiment of what Republicanism became on their watch and with their consent, and they don’t want to be reminded that they cheered on the people who brought this era to a thudding halt through misrule, ideology and corruption.  They would prefer to wish it away in a fit of Reagan nostalgia and jingoism, which are just about all the GOP has left at this point.  

Besides, there can hardly be an “Iowa curse” if an Iowa winner was elected President in two of the five open election years (1976, 2000).  A 40% success rate isn’t overwhelming, but it’s hardly proof of anything meaningful one way or the other.  Had Gary Hart gone on to become the nominee in 1984, does anyone really believe that the final outcome would have been any different?  If Obama and Huckabee do become the nominees, one of them will end up winning.  Frightening as that may be, it would probably put an end to these regular complaints about the irrelevance of Iowa.   

As for Tancredo and his supporters shellacking Huckabee, I suppose I would look a bit more kindly on all of it had they not gone over to Romney and transformed themselves overnight into some of his biggest fans.  Watching Tancredo’s former campaign manager praising Mitt Romney was such a surreal experience the other day that I thought that I must have been hallucinating.  Speaking of conversions on the road to Des Moines, Tancredo and his staffers seem to have experienced one.  Having once persecuted him, they have become Romneyites.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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